Fernhurst antiques dealer tortured and killed for diamonds, court told

The Argus: Michael Griffiths Michael Griffiths

An antiques dealer was bound, tortured and killed by “ruthless” burglars searching for diamonds worth £40,000, a court was told.

Michael Griffiths was attacked and doused in an accelerant before his home was set alight in an attempt to destroy evidence, jurors at Hove Crown Court were told yesterday.

Firefighters initially thought Mr Griffiths had no legs, but they had in fact been “hog-tied” behind his back, Christine Laing, prosecuting, said.

Miss Laing said Mr Griffiths, a “well-liked” man, had been “tortured” in a “protracted assault” involving weapons and strangulation, which was “ruthless” and “extreme”.

She said two defendants have admitted conspiracy to burgle Mr Griffiths’ home and other properties in Sussex.

She added: “He had been tortured and had multiple head injuries.”

Miss Laing said Mr Griffiths’ body was discovered at 7am on January 24, 2012, when police were called to his home in Old Glebe, Fernhurst, near Midhurst.

She said his neighbour, Dorothy Young, had been in bed when she heard a bang and then smelled smoke.

Miss Laing said firefighters struggled to get inside the house because Mr Griffiths’ body blocked the door.

She told jurors Mr Griffiths, 59, who was an antiques dealer and jewellery designer was single and lived alone in a home “filled with items” – including two diamonds worth £40,000 which he hoped to sell.

A recorded 999 call from Mr Griffiths after two people claiming to be police visited his home on January 22 will be played at the trial.

Miss Laing said Mr Griffiths did not open the door to them and they threw snowballs at his window.

She continued: “It seems the call handler thought it was people making a nuisance of themselves.

“He thought it was more sinister. Unfortunately he was right.”

She said Mr Griffiths went out on the night of January 23, 2012.

When he returned home around 11.30pm, people were “ruthlessly laying in wait for him”.

Harvey Mumford, 23, of Monks Way, Staines, has admitted conspiracy to burgle a home in Loxwood, near Chichester, conspiracy to burgle Mr Griffiths’ home in Fernhurst, conspiracy to burgle a home in Poynings near Brighton, conspiracy to burgle a home near Godalming, Surrey, and conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice in relation to the fire at Mr Griffiths’ home.

He denies murder.

Simon Penton, 43, of Markway, Sunbury, has admitted conspiracy to burgle homes in Loxwood, Poynings and a home near Godalming as well as Mr Griffiths’ house, but deniesmurder and conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice.

Kerry Rudder, 43, also of Markway, denies murder, conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice and conspiracy to burgle a home in Loxwood.

Damian Krafft, 27, of High Street, Shepperton, denies murder and conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice.

Zack Cowdrey, 23, of Meadway, Staines denies murder, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and conspiracy to burgle Mr Griffiths’ home.

John Bartholomew, 72, of Centurion House, Portsmouth, denies murder and conspiracy to commit burglaries in Loxwood, Fernhurst and Poynings.

Rebecca Rogers, 39, of Pool End Close, Shepperton, denies conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The trial continues.

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